Remembrance Without Faith


The Government of Canada has taken the next logical step toward cancellation of Christianity in this country.  The Department of National Defense has instructed its chaplains that religious prayers in official  Remembrance Day ceremonies are now forbidden.  In an 11 October 2023 directive, Chaplain General, Brigadier-General Guy Belisle states:

"While the dimension of prayer may occupy a significant place for some of our members, we do not all pray in the same way; for some, prayer does not play a role in their lives...Therefore, it is essential for chaplains to adopt a sensitive and inclusive approach when publicly addressing military members."

So, once again, the new state secular WOKE religion supplants and suppresses the foundational one of Christianity.  In practice, this means that military "padres" as they are commonly known-cannot recite from the Bible or allude to God while conducting ceremonies and public military functions.  Instead, "spiritual reflection" must be "inclusive in nature, and respectful of the religious and spiritual diversity of Canada".

This move is of course part of the larger cultural change process in the CAF implemented in recent years by the Liberal government, which aims to put principles of DIE (Diversity, Inclusion, Equity) at the core of the organization.

For public reflections, the directive tells chaplains that they must "carefully choose words that are inclusive" and that they should use language "mindful of the Gender Based Analysis (GBA+)".  This effectively tells chaplains to refrain from referring to a "Heavenly Father".  Along with enforcing language code to padres, the directive also removes the traditional scarves that chaplains wear, which bear the crests of respective religions:

"Chaplains must consider the potential that some items or symbols may cause discomfort or traumatic feelings when choosing the dress they wear during public occasions."

The Faith Tradition crests will be replaced by the state symbol of the Royal Canadian Chaplain Service.  This decision comes after the Minister of National Defence Advisory Panel on Systemic Racism and Discrimination released a report in January 2022 critical of religion in general.  A section in the report entitled "Re-defining Chaplaincy" said that "religion can be a source of suffering and generational trauma", especially for many LGBT individuals and indigenous people:

"Some chaplains represent or are affiliated with organized religions whose beliefs are not synonymous with those of a diverse inclusive workplace."

Along with DIE principles influencing this decision, Brig-Gen. Belisle also referenced a 2015 Supreme Court of Canada decision originating from Quebec.  The directive cites Mouvement Lalique quebecois v. Saguenay City, in which a self-proclaimed atheist complained about City Council having the audacity to recite a prayer before opening its meetings.  The atheistic SCC said this:

"The evolution of Canadian society has given rise to a concept of neutrality according to which the state must not interfere in religion and beliefs....The state must instead remain neutral in this regard, which means that it must neither favour nor hinder any particular belief, and the same holds true for non-belief."

Of course, the net effect of this so called 'neutrality' is to sacrifice and prohibit actual faith based religious practices upon the altar of secularism.  Brig-Gen. Belisle's directive says that the policy will be enforced through education in vocational school and by taking disciplinary action against chaplains who do not comply.  This policy is intended to destroy traditions in the name of DIE.   None of this is surprising.  They must remove God from the public square in order to push all their radical agendas.  It is not about remaining neutral; it is rather about replacing traditional religion with the new state religion of progressivism.  

What the Canadian government is essentially acknowledging through its prayer ban is the close historical connection between Remembrance and the Church, which has played a vital role in helping the nation to remember those lost to war, and praying for peace.

Many of us are familiar with the gatherings each 11th of November, on what was once known as Armistice Day.  There are usually one or more Christian pastors present at these events, and in addition churches may hold special services.  These events are not limited to one kind of church or even a single faith, but happen  across many different churches.  

Around the world, across generations, people have gathered after times of great loss of life.  Sometimes this stems from war, or natural disaster or other types of human tragedy.  These gatherings are often facilitated by local faith leaders, including military chaplains, who help the whole community of all faiths to remember.

Churches often play a leading role in getting us to gather.  They have the space and are familiar with creating the kind of environment where people can bring a huge range of emotions.  In Canada, Christian Ministers have also been present during conflicts, with men and women serving as chaplains and padres to the armed forces.  

Various traditions have different views about war, but across Christian denominations there is a commitment to peace, and to helping those who suffer, whether they are in the armed forces or affected as civilians.  There are four main things that happen at Remembrance events, all of which are important:

(1) Ritual-formal words are said on every occasion.  There is a structure to the gathering  which includes listening, response, and reflection;

(2) Remembrance-the story of what happened and the loss of life is recalled.  Names are read aloud, and symbolic action takes place such as lighting of candles;

(3) Grieving-space is provided for the ambient emotions, including words or prayers giving comfort; &

(4) Commitment to change-there is a moment for those present to think about how this might affect them and the world going forward.

Churches and Chaplains in Canada have played a key role in shaping these rituals, especially since WWI, when many of the things that we now experience around Remembrance Day first took shape.  These days, many Christian and other faith traditions are involved, and different kinds of moments have emerged:

(1) National moments-These are moments when there is an opportunity for people across the nation to join in remembering, as they wish.  This includes the two minutes of silence on Remembrance Day.  It also includes the national ceremony in Ottawa, which is not limited to any particular faith, but has included representatives of the Christian church and other faiths;

(2) Community moments-After WWI, many villages, towns, and cities erected war memorials in public spaces.  These are now the focus of gatherings on Remembrance Day.  Services include traditional hymns, poems, readings, and offer time for reflection.  In addition to these spaces, there are also many memorial plaques in the communities to which those who died in war or tragedy belonged.  These plaques will often include a simple line of Scripture from the Bible assigning spiritual value to sacrificed lives.  Services at war memorials are also important community events, although church leaders may be present, and often participate.  In addition, local churches hold special services on Remembrance Day;

(3) Individuals-alongside the opportunity to gather with others and remember those who died, individuals still remember those who have been part of their own story, whether lost recently or long ago.  Sometimes this happens in the privacy of our own homes, when we join in broadcast services or just light a candle.  

Church services on Remembrance Day will include some familiar words, and the speaker may reflect upon issues of peace, justice and loss in the light of hope Christians have in Jesus Christ. Words from the Bible will be read.  For example, the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:  "blessed are the peacemakers".  Or words from the prophets such as Isaiah 2:2:

"They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore."

This expresses the Christian longing and hope for a time when God's love and peace will transform the world.  There may be a time of regret, lament, or confession for the lack of peace and justice in our world.  Christians believe that there is wrong in the world which hurts people, and also that each of us plays a part in that wrong through our own sinfulness.  

There may be traditional hymns and other music.  Prayers will be offered for the peace of the world, as well as for those who are mourning, those who have been injured in mind or body, and for those who still serve in the CAF or as civilians supporting them.  There will be a sense of solidarity with others and a moment of stillness to remember, which may coincide with the national moment of silence, where that is possible.  

These words are often used at Remembrance Services, and at Acts of Remembrance:

"They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old; age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.  At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we shall remember them."

Such words are for everyone, not just Christians.  In churches, they may be followed by a prayer asking God to keep those who have died in God's presence, and also to be with those who mourn, and help us all work for peace.  Acts of Remembrance will also include the singing of the O Canada, with many joining in the chorus.

The roots of Remembrance Day can be traced back to 1914 &1918, encompassing the war.  Initially, it did not receive much public recognition.  However, in 1931, Parliament passed The Remembrance Day Act, which renamed Armistice Day as 'Remembrance Day'.  In 1951, The Holidays Act was amended to ensure that Remembrance Day is annually observed on 11 November each year.

The national Remembrance Day ceremony is led by the Governor General and is held at the National War Memorial in Ottawa.  This ceremonial event is broadcast nationwide.  The poppy flower signifying remembrance is worn from the last day Friday of October until 11 November.  These poppies are also worn at memorial commemorations throughout the year.  This is inclusive of battle anniversaries and other events.  The funds generated from such events support services for military veterans.  The tradition of wearing poppies was sparked when these vibrant red blossoms grew across fallen soldier's burial sites.  The National Silver Cross Mother, a representation of all mothers who lost children in active service, is selected by The Royal Canadian Legion each year.  During the ceremony, they are honoured with a wreath at the base of the National War Memorial.

Ceremonies on Remembrance Day holiday usually begin with a procession of military personnel, veterans, public officials, and pipe bands.  Prayers and speeches pay tribute to the fallen soldiers and those currently serving.  A significant ceremony occurs at the National War Memorial on Remembrance Day in Ottawa and is attended by many dignitaries.  This event includes military parades, prayers, readings, and the laying of wreaths.  A fly by of military aircraft often marks the occasion.  

In Alberta, Remembrance Day is a statutory holiday celebrated with great gusto.  This day is observed with ceremonies held at war memorials, cenotaphs, and military cemeteries.  The largest ceremony occurs at the University of Alberta Butterdome, attracting thousands of people each year.

This is when citizens nationwide pause their daily life hustle to remark those who gave all for their country.  Through solemn ceremonies and personal acts of remembrance, the spirit of honouring the past lives on.  This day is a unifying moment, reminding us of our shared history and the peace for which the brave fought.  As we commemorate Remembrance Day each year, we must renew the commitment to remember, to honour, and to appreciate our fallen heroes.  

This year marks 105 years since the end of the Great War in 1918.  The 11th of November.  A day etched into our nation's shared 'religious calendar'-a sacred day up there with Canada Day in the national story, and a reminder of the sacrifice our forebears have made for the life we now enjoy but at times so little appreciate.

At the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month, we pause to remember the 'armistice agreement'-the laying down of weapons and the pursuit of peace.  We often mark this day with the poppies; the flowers that sprang up as a sign of renewed life on the Belgian battlefields that claimed millions of lives over a four year war.  

November 11 is a date marked in the hearts and minds of Canadians far and wide as Remembrance Day.  As a day of profound respect and solemn reflection, it signifies more than just a mark on the calendar.  It is about celebrating the veterans who served during the wars and died.  Despite what our current federal government says, it is impossible to reverently commemorate those who died in defense of our country in a purely secular way.  This is because there was something immutably sacred in the way that these brave souls gave their lives to posterity in the cause of defending our future freedoms and democracy.  It was at bottom a form of Christian martyrdom that defies DIE description.  In short, no one is prepared to DIE for any WOKE cause.  

So what then does Remembrance Day have of value to teach us?  What do these sacred days reveal about who we are?  How do they shape us?

They remind us that for life to flourish, for poppies to grow, for the world to be a safer place for our kids, we need peace.

They remind us of the all too present reality of war in the world-that we cannot claim that fundamentally, humans are good, but that as Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who lived in a Gulag during the second 'Great War' put it:

"The line between good and evil cuts through every human heart.  We have this capacity to do monstrous things."

They remind us, alongside the ongoing presence of war in our world, that these lessons have not yet been learned, that the sacrifices of soldiers killed in such wars have not been enough to alter our hearts.

Are these days a comfort in the face of death?  Do they stop us turning to conflict, or war, rather than peace? What does remembering really do for us in a world that has forgotten some other key truths?

The reason we mark Remembrance Day with poppies is that poet Moina Michael wrote a poem called "We Shall Keep The Faith" in November 1918, around the time of the Armistice.  Her poem was in response to another poem written during the war, the aforesaid "In Flanders Fields", by Lt.Col. John McCrae.  Both of these poems reveal something about what we have lost from our collective memories in our modern remembering, and also of what these events must teach us.  

McCrae's poem reflects upon the fields of death, of sacrifice marked by crosses, that he witnessed as a soldier, and the cost of the sacrifice of those who is a call to remember.  To keep the faith.  To ensure the sacrifice is not in vain.  Moina Micheal wrote her poem in response to the promise not to forget.  A promise to keep the faith:

"Oh! You who sleep in Flanders Fields,

Sleep sweet-to rise anew!

We caught the torch you threw

And holding high, we keep the Faith

With All who died.

We cherish, too, the poppy red

That grows on fields where valor led;

It seems to signal to the skies

That blood of heroes never dies,

But lends a lustre to the red

Of the flower that blooms above the dead

In Flanders Fields.

And now the Torch of Poppy Red

We wear in honour of our dead.

Fear not that ye have died for naught;

We'll teach the lesson that ye wrought

In Flanders Fields."

The poppy therefore marks a commitment to remember.  To hold on to the lessons learned.  To ensure that these soldiers did not die in vain, but that they secured new life-one purchased by blood and courage.

But we have not remembered.  Not really.  We certainly recall the sacrifice of our soldiers, and are thankful for it.  However, that there was a second Great War from 1939-45, the Korean Conflict, Afghanistan, and others is at least a sort of proof that this sentiment did not translate, that the lessons still need teaching.  That our hearts and minds still need change and healing.  

These poems also reveal something lost in our public psyche:  our shared story.  The hope of resurrection-of a different sort of new life.  The idea that these soldiers sleep, to rise anew.  The idea that death is not the end of the story.  The idea that to 'keep the faith' is not simply about remembering the sacrifice of a fallen soldier; but to remember the sacrifice of Jesus.

This year, as Canadians throughout the nation pause to remember the sacrifice of our fallen soldiers, we will be, as Christians, also recalling the red blood spilled to give us all new life-our own keeping the faith.  We shall give thanks for the peace we now enjoy as a nation, that was hard won, but at the same time we shall give thanks that God worked to bring peace with us, to transform our hearts, through the sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary.  We shall partake in the Lord's Supper-the meal of bread and wine that Christians have been holding out, and holding on to, since the armistice Christ won for us in humanity's war with God:

"And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me...In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you..." (Luke 21:19-20).

After saying these words, Jesus went on to die on a cross; a sacrifice offered in our stead to bring us peace with God, and new life.  New life that includes new hearts-where instead of good and evil contending within us, God offers his spirit and the example of Jesus to transform us so that we have 'new hearts'.

As human beings and God's children, we are profoundly shaped by stories; by memories; by sacred moments where we pause to reflect upon who we are, how we got here, and where we are going.  To remember something is to keep the faith.  To hang on.  To become part of the story.  This year, on 11 November, we shall remember that we enjoy temporary peace in this world because of the sacrifice of those fallen soldiers who went before; but we shall also remember that we enjoy eternal, heart-changing peace with God because of what is stated in John 3:16:

"For God so loved the world that he have his only begotten son, so that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but shall have eternal life."

After Christ's Ascension, His Apostles were given the daunting, dangerous, but inspired task of evangelizing the world into Christendom, of spreading the Good News of salvation.

The Apostle Paul's letter to the Phillipian church begins with a reflection: "I thank my God upon every remembrance of you" (Ph. 1:3).  Paul had a close relationship with the people of his church, and his love for them is evident in his prayer for them throughout the epistle.  All believers should show their love for one another not just in word but in actions and in truth (John 3:18), and this includes praying for one another.

Paul was thankful for the believers in Phillipi.  The church there was founded during his second missionary journey (Acts 16), and they shared with Paul "a partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now" (Ph. 1:15).  The believers in Phillipi faithfully supported Paul's ministry over the years (Ph. 4:16), even when he was imprisoned.  He was thankful for their support and grateful for their faith.

Paul's ongoing relationship with this church revealed a heart of gratitude that allowed him to say that he thanked God upon every remembrance of them.  Every time he thought of the Philippian believers, whether he was praying or conversing with someone else, Paul thanked God for them.  Phillipians 1:3-8 further shows the joy, love, and care that Paul had for the believers at Phillipi.  Theirs was a relationship that affected the apostle's prayers:  "In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy" (Philippians 1:4).

Phillipi had been a difficult place in which to preach the Gospel.  Paul and Silas were unjustly thrown in jail there and beaten before their release.  Such harsh treatment from the ungodly in Phillipi made the faith and commitment of the believers there that much sweeter.  Paul's gratitude is directed toward God, who alone is the Saviour and Lord of the church.  Paul knew that

"neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow." (1 Corinthians 3:7).

As Christians, we are called upon to love one another, and one way that we can do that is by praying for one another.  We are called upon to pray for fellow believers (Eph. 6:18); for ministers of the Gospel (Eph. 6:19-20), for the persecuted church (Heb. 13:3), and for all people (1 Tim 2:1).  Praying for others gets the focus off ourselves and reminds us that we are a body of believers.  It allows us to 'carry each other's burdens', which fulfills the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2).  We, too, can thank God upon every remembrance of believers around the world, for we all have the hope of Christ.

Believers comprise the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27), and we should be thanking God for the salivation and the ministry we share at every remembrance, and on every Remembrance Day.  The eye must be thankful for the foot, the lungs for the heart, etc.  There is a definite partnership in the body.  Just as the Philippian believers had a "partnership in the Gospel" with Paul, so we have one in the Gospel with those who serve Christ elsewhere-including in defense of our country.  

All believers are united in the Gospel.  As we pray for one another, we can be filled with joy and confidence "that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:6).

When I think about Bible verses for Remembrance Day, this one comes to mind:  "The memory of the righteous is blessed" (Proverbs 10:7)

As we celebrate those who have given their lives for our country, let us also remember those who have been martyred for their faith in Christ.  The Cross is a stumbling block for many and people are still being slaughtered today simply for loving Jesus.  Let us pray for those under persecution and for the families of our precious brothers and sisters who remained faithful until the very end.

Most of all, let us not forget to pray this Remembrance Day, regardless of what our WOKE government may say.

Share this article